Friday, April 13, 2012

18 get life terms for killing 23 in Ode

Express news service : Anand, Fri Apr 13 2012, 01:03 hrs 
Eighteen of the 23 people convicted of killing 23 Muslims in Ode in 2002 were sentenced to life terms on Thursday. The other five were given seven years’ rigorous imprisonment.

The court also fined the convicts for offences like arson, rioting and making provocative statements.

Additional Sessions Judge Poonam Singh had on April 9 convicted 18 people of murder and allied charges, four people of attempt to murder and allied charges, and one person of arson and rioting.
All the convicts belong to the wealthy and politically powerful Leuva Patel community of landowners.

Twenty-three Muslims were locked inside a three-storey building which was set on fire in Ode in Anand district on March 1, 2002.
This was the first post-Godhra riots case in which the court upheld the conspiracy charge. The Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team had sought death for all 18 convicted of murder.

Relatives of the convicts raised slogans against the sentence and Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the news came. “Haay re Modi haay” and “Aa nyay nathi (this is not justice)”, shouted the crowd, comprising mostly women. The situation threatened to get out of hand at one point before the police scattered the protesters.


One verdict, contrasting emotions

Parimal Dabhi : Ode, Anand, Fri Apr 13 2012, 00:05 hrs

On March 1, 2002, Majidmiya Malek lost his parents and sister, killed by people with whom they had once shared meals but who were then throwing burning rags into a house in which they were locked in.

Ten years on, Diksha Patel is grieving for her father and her uncle, who are among the 18 sentenced to life for that mass killing.

Malek, now 50, says the judgment has reinforced his faith in the justice system while Diksha, who lives in London, insists her father is an innocent victim of a political game.

Malek survived as he was in his fields when the rioters arrived. When he returned, he saw the house of Akbarkhan Pathan being burnt by a mob that included many of his neighbours. Sixteen of the 23 killed belonged to Malek’s family, including his father Muradmiya, 65, mother Sugrabibi, 60, and 17-year-old sister. “I saw my family members being burnt alive,” he says, recalling having seen the bodies of Sikandar and his two-year-old daughter, Guddi, clinging to his chest.

“The judgment has given me immense satisfaction. Justice is there for us, even though after 10 years,” says Malek, one of the case’s main witnesses and who identified seven or eight of the accused during the trial. He has since moved to Dhunadara village and resumed farming.

Diksha flew to Ode on Monday, the day her father Harish Patel, 61, was found guilty. Hers was the loudest of the protests outside the court in Anand. Harish Patel, who runs a lucrative tobacco business, has been convicted of murder, attempt to murder, and arson. He was described as one of the main conspirators.

Diksha’s uncle Dilip Patel too has been sentenced to life imprisonment. Her brother Kalpesh, 23, was among the 23 acquitted, a relief for their mother who would have been otherwise alone in their huge bungalow.

“There was no evidence against my father,” Diksha says. “If there was a mob of around 1,500 to 2,000 people, why have only a few of a single locality, that too only Patels, been convicted?” Diksha says.

She worries for the health of her father, whom she describes as a very “respected” person in the community. Of the 23 killed, the bodies of only two could be recovered. Diksha questions how her father could be held responsible for the murders of those whose bodies have not been found.

8 still wanted from town that has sent 2,000 abroad

Of those accused in the killing of 27 people in the Ode cases, eight have red-corner notices against them. Two of these absconders are wanted in the Pirawali Bhagol case, in which 23 were sentenced on Thursday, and the other six in the Malav Bhagol case, in which three people were murdered. The 27th death was that of Rafique Mohammad Gulam Rasul Saiyed, 80, burnt alive in Suriwali Bhagol.

Most of the absconders are believed to be hiding abroad. Ode town is said to have at least one member of every Patel family settled abroad, roughly accounting for 2,000 or more NRIs. Police officials say the legal procedure for the extradition of the absconders is on.

The eight absconders are Dilipbhai Babu Patel, Hirubhai Ravjibhai Patel, Natubhai Satabhai Patel, Ankurbhai Shahpurbhai Patel, Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel, Rakeshbhai H Patel alias Rocky, Mohanbhai R Patel alias Sasin and Nikul Ravjibhai Patel.

They are believed to be in Australia, the UK and the United States, staying with their relatives, but in the cases of only two is anything definite being said.

According to sources, Ankur Patel's whereabouts have been traced to UK, the Indian embassy has been contacted for his extradition, and the matter is now pending with the government.

Dilip and Hiru Patel are the two absconding in the Pirawali Bhagol case. Residents of Ode said Hiru is living with his relatives in the UK while the whereabouts of the rest are not clear.

The Special Investigation Team probing the killings had issued red-corner notices in 2008. Residents said that the local police had glued posters of the absconders declaring them “most wanted” but there hasn't been any information about them.

Who did what

The 23 convicts, and what they have been sentenced for

* Vinubhai Bhikhabhai Patel, 53, life
* Vijaybhai Ravjibhai Patel, 43, life
* Atulbhai Dahyabhai Patel, 42, 7 years
* Devangbhai Harshadbhai Patel, 35,7 years

As part of a conspiracy, they allegedly assured Akbarkhan Pathan he would not be harmed but then led a mob to his house where 23 people had taken shelter; the mob locked them in and killed them by throwing burning rags inside. They were also in the mob that injured Mehrajbibi Pathan of Pirawali Bhagol and two policemen who were trying to stop rioters. This mob attacked the Muslim locality of Suriwali Bhagol, plundered homes abandoned by Muslims, and made religiously hurtful statements.

* Dilipbhai Vallabhbhai Patel, 50, life
* Dilipbhai Vinubhai Patel, 40, life
* Dilipbhai Ranchhodbhai Patel, 55, life
* Dilipbhai Shanabhai Patel, 63, 7 yrs
* Harishbhai Vallabhbhai Patel, 61, life
* Jayendrabhai Satabhai Patel, 50, life
* Sureshbhai Bhailalbhai Patel, 43, life
* Pareshbhai Ranchhodbhai Patel, 38, life
* Arvindbhai Ravjibhai Patel, 67, life
* Hemantbhai Satabhai alias
Gokalbhai Patel, 33, life
* Sanatkumar Ranchhodbhai Patel, 36, life
* Manubhai Jethabhai Patel, 73, life
* Punambhai Laljibhai Patel, 50, life
* Dharmeshkumar Natubhai Patel, 34, lvice-president of Ode nagarpalika, ife
* Vinubhai Shanabhai Patel, 53, life
* Natubhai Mangalbhai Patel, 48, life
* Pravinbhai Mangalbhai Patel, 45, life
* Girishbhai Somabhai Patel, 64, 7 yrs
* Prakashbhai Jashbhai Patel, 43, 7 yrs

Allegedly in the mob that carried stones and inflammable material, torched Muslim properties and killed the 23 in the house; many of them were also part of the conspiracy that led to the torching of the house. They allegedly attacked two others who tried to escape and who became eyewitnesses in the case. They were also in the mob that attacked the two policemen, and plundered Muslim homes.

Police had lathicharged the mob on hearing screams from inside the house; mob attacked the two cops.

Dilip Patel, with different middle names, is common to 3 of those sentenced to life and a 4th awarded 7 yrs.

* Dilip Sata Patel was acquitted.
* Dilip Babubhai Patel is absconding.
* Dilip Dahya Patel, relative of convicts Atul Dahya Patel (brother) and Dilip Vallabh Patel (brother-in-law), grabbed the dupatta of a  
woman in the crowd after the sentence and apparently tried to hang himself, though the crowd didn’t let him.


The objective of this punishment is to remind the accused that their crime was not in their welfare or of the society.

Conspiracy is established as all those gathered were Hindus with intention to kill Muslims and damage their property. The gathered on Friday and charged towards homes of the Muslims fully aware of the fact that it was Friday and all people would be in their respective homes. They knew that victims keep grass and tobacco in the house, so as per plan they threw patrol and kerosene first.

Intention to kill and preparations were established from the fact that fire was caused to an extent that even the bones were burned down, as there was not even a bone available in the burnt houses....
Godhra carnage is the reason behind occurrence of this incident.

The case does not fall in the category of rarest of rare. There is no criminal antecedent of the accused persons. The situation wa tense then and looking at such circumstances, death penalty cannot be handed out at this stage. "



These sentences were for a mass killing in Pirwali Bhagol, Ode town. The next judgment will be for mob killings in Malav Bhagol, also in Ode town. Three Muslims were burnt alive by a mob and 41 persons, again mostly Patels, are facing trial. A special court headed by additional session judge R M Sareen has been conducting the trial, which is almost over with the court having heard both sides. April 16 is the tentative date for the judgment.


The probe, its officers and the challenge

Satish Jha : Ode, Anand, Fri Apr 13 2012, 00:08 hrs 
The investigations into the Ode killings were marked by constantly changing investigating officials and the basic challenge of establishing that 23 people had indeed been killed.

The killings were first investigated by sub-inspector R G Patel of Khambholaj police station in Anand district, under whose jurisdiction Ode falls. He was transferred to Ahmedabad as an inspector and was suspended in 2009, after a hooch tragedy with 157 deaths blew into a scandal that exposed a nexus between policemen and bootleggers.

Till the Special Investigation Team took over, the state police had already arrested 46 accused, of whom 23 have been released.

To establish that 23 people had been killed, about Rs 16 to 20 lakh was spent on digging the areas where the remains were allegedly disposed of, but no evidence was found. “When the SIT took over the case in 2008, the challenge was to find evidence of homicide. 

The complainant had claimed that the victims’ last remains were thrown into a step-well and another well in the locality. The SIT tried to drain the whole step-well for eight days and brought officials from the irrigation department. The exercise went on for more than a week but nothing was found,” said a former investigating official.

The SIT later appointed Girsh H Patel, DySP, as IO. He retired midway through the probe and DySP Himanshu Pathak took charge.

The day the complaint was filed by Rafiq Khalifa, then assistant sub-inspector Bhimsinh P Raulji registered the FIR. When Gulam Rasool Saiyed, 80, was burnt alive, no fresh FIR was lodged. According to the victim’s family, separate cases were filed on March 1 and March 2 but the police registered only one FIR, a matter that remains controversial.


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